Are You Hard on Yourself? How to Stop Self-Critical Anxiety

You're probably hard on yourself if you have anxiety. If thoughts about yourself make anxiety worse, your tendency to be hard on yourself needs to change. Visit HealthyPlace now and learn what to do when anxiety makes you hard on yourself.

Being hard on yourself is an unfortunate effect of anxiety. We blame ourselves for this and we chastise ourselves for that. We ruminate about the past and beat ourselves up with worry. We fear things that might happen in the future because we think we’re not good enough to handle this or that. Being so hard on yourself cannot only be an effect of anxiety, but it can also cause increased anxiety. Anxiety and self-hatred exacerbate each other so that it seems that we’re stuck in this awful place forever. In reality, you don’t have to always be so hard on yourself. There are ways to stop and to even start liking yourself.

Being Hard on Yourself Has Negative Consequences

Self-criticism is such a common component of anxiety that it really could be listed as part of the criteria for generalized anxiety disorder. Anxious thoughts and emotions frequently cause people to be verbally and emotionally abusive to themselves. Being hard on ourselves takes its toll and contributes to:

  • More anxiety
  • Depression (that feeling of not being able to do anything right can decrease confidence, zap motivation, and make living exhausting and heavy)
  • Lack of energy and drive
  • A sense of treading water, of barely getting by
  • Low self-esteem and self-efficacy (the knowledge that you can do things)

If you're living with anxiety, you probably tend to be particularly hard on yourself, placing harsh self-blame for so many things, including having anxiety in the first place.

Being hard on ourselves by using negative labels, finding fault with our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, and replaying in our heads scenes in which we believe we did something wrong doesn't help us thrive and achieve mental wellness. Self-criticism keeps us anchored in the past and prevents us from moving forward.

How to Stop Being Hard on Yourself

No matter what anxiety tells you, you can move forward. These tips will help you become less critical of yourself and reduce anxiety in the process:

Separate yourself from the problem. Anxiety is sticky and clingy. Once in our head, it doesn’t want to let go. It makes us believe that all of our anxious thoughts, including the negative thoughts about ourselves, are true. Stepping back and looking at the big picture can help you separate from the problem. The problem is an event in your life. It isn’t who you are. Problems don’t make you bad.

Keep it to the issue at hand. Once we start criticizing ourselves for one thing, the harsh treatment easily grows and spreads, becoming a huge blob that threatens to engulf us. Feeling horrible for yelling at your child can quickly grow to remembering past mistakes and feeling like a horrible parent in general. When you notice yourself leaving the current issue and overgeneralizing your mistakes to "everything," stop; take a breath, and remind yourself of the issue at hand.

Change to more accurate thoughts. We think bad things about ourselves. These thoughts are loud and obnoxious but that doesn't make them accurate. Shift your thinking from what you did wrong to what you did--and do--right. What are your strengths? What are your skills? Sure, people make mistakes, but we do more things right. Name those things, and own them.

Act. Criticizing yourself doesn't move you forward. Being hard on yourself keeps you stuck. To get unstuck, use your mistake in a positive way, to motivate you, help you shape your goals, and take action to accomplish those goals.

Self-criticism and being hard on yourself are damaging aspects of anxiety. They are also, unfortunately, part of being human. We'll probably never fully stop being hard on ourselves, but we can stop believing our negative self-talk and letting it keep us stuck. As you use the above tips, you just might find that you like yourself after all. As an added bonus, you could experience less anxiety.

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2018, April 5). Are You Hard on Yourself? How to Stop Self-Critical Anxiety, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 18 from

Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC, DAIS

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of numerous anxiety self-help books, including The Morning Magic 5-Minute Journal, The Mindful Path Through Anxiety, 101 Ways to Help Stop Anxiety, The 5-Minute Anxiety Relief Journal, The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety, The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, and Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps. She has also written five critically acclaimed, award-winning novels about life with mental health challenges. She delivers workshops for all ages and provides online and in-person mental health education for youth. She has shared information about creating a quality life on podcasts, summits, print and online interviews and articles, and at speaking events. Tanya is a Diplomate of the American Institution of Stress helping to educate others about stress and provide useful tools for handling it well in order to live a healthy and vibrant life. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

March, 1 2024 at 11:15 am

I really needed this read this morning! Anxiety has been really tough lately.

April, 24 2018 at 6:09 pm

Great advice, particularly liked all the many ways to stop being so self critical.

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